Ti Ricordi?

Italy has been on my mind. The other night, as I was trying to sleep, I thought about my relationship with my Italian host mom, Paola. Here are a few episodes about our relationship, my Italian experience, and a few lessons I learned.

I’m reading “Sogno Romano” to Paola in the kitchen while she makes lunch. She stands at the stove. Water boils. The sun streams in. Her cigarette sighs smoke on the counter.

She turns her head gently to correct my mistakes. Her nods tell me she likes the story. I read and try to speak clearly, roll my rs, say a question with the right intonation. My tongue stumbles over words and I feel my cheeks turn red. The phrases would sound much more beautiful if she was reading them.

But she isn’t. And I am. Her nods push me to say another word. She makes lunch, I read her a story. Together, we show one another we care.

It’s 11 o’clock. Paola comes in. In her hand is an espresso cup. The espresso I drink every morning because she insists. I’m confused because it is night now. But she’s insisting.

“Che cosa?”

Her response: “Mirto.”

With a grin she hands me it. I take the small cup and take a small sip. Like espresso it’s strong. And it’s good. It’s alcohol.

I tell her I like it. She tells me she would give me more, but I would fall asleep. I laugh because she’s serving me alcohol in my pajamas, while I do my homework, and I laugh because she is right.

Many nights I will fall asleep with the lights on and a book in my hand because my  feet have walked to places I have never been and my mind is constantly trying to comprehend conversations or formulate responses that I often solve too late.

I am already so tired. But I take a sip. It’s good. I’m experiencing and learning. I’m happy that she wants to share her Mirto with me.

A week and a half. That’s how long it took me to show Paola that I care.

It isn’t because I didn’t appreciate her good cooking, her comforting hand on my shoulder, her singing with the TV. It’s because I didn’t know how to appreciate her.

But tonight I figured it out. All it took was: “Grazie per cena.” And then I saw it, a big, kind smile. And then I heard it: “Grazie per la tua compagnia.”

It’s a routine we will create every time we eat. She prepares the meal, I set the table, then, we eat together.

After I see her face light up I make sure to tell her every time. I fly the table cloth out of the window, like a banner, and our bread crumbs fall onto the street like rain. I fold the cloth, step beside her and place it in the drawer. Before I leave I say it. My voice is gentle and genuine. I say it from the heart; “Thank you for dinner.”

Smiling big, she thanks me for sitting and eating beside her. I tip toe to my room with a joyful heart. It’s my favourite thing to hear and my favourite part of our dinner.


xx, Hannah




In Retrospect —


It is impossible to encompass all of what I have learned my first year of college. But I will try to summarize it all in one word – growth. Taking on the world on my own (well kind of on my own – thanks Mom for still listening to me when I need to cry via phone and for still, well, paying for all of my coffee) has forced me to decide, think, and be. When your parents give you a 4-months worth hug and send you off to college they don’t really tell you the all-you-need-to-know to be an adult. Your parents don’t tell you that making friends in the real world is challenging. That sometimes doing laundry (and not having it dry) can make you cry. That sometimes your best isn’t worth an A (or even a B). Or that no matter how many friends you have and how many things you are doing that you can still feel, and will feel, lonely. Those are truths you have to learn for yourself.

My first year of college I have realized who I am. After following – this is what everyone else is doing so I am going to do it to path – I have been forced to spend time by myself. This year I have learned how to go to a coffee shop just because, how to go on a run through the city, how to eat my lunch alone (and enjoy it,) how to not feel silly for crying (it’s true y’all crying is necessary and totally okay,) and how to be okay with just being with myself.

This year I have also learned what it’s like to make friends. As it turns out, making friends in kindergarten and pre-school is not enough preparation for making friends in the real world. Instead, making friends in the real world is quite hard – it takes patience, it takes being intentional (really intentional,) and it takes being vulnerable. When I came to college I had no one that I knew, but I am now leaving my first year of college with so many people that have loved me well and I have loved in return. I had never expected to feel this loved upon leaving college. When you are vulnerable with others and they are vulnerable with you, people have the ability to change your life. People, for the most part, are kind. They are not scary – they are human. (Although sometimes being human can be quite scary).

Lastly, I have really learned what it looks like, feels like, and is like to trust in the promises of Jesus. The sovereignty of the Lord is the only reason my freshman year of college was so full of growth and change. The Lord really does answer our prayers. He has provided me with life-long friends that I met on the first day of school, He has provided me with a community of girls that love me and care about the well-being of my heart, and He has provided me with a roommate that has taught me so much about loving others. Learning how to live out my faith in college has been so easy with so many girls beside me that have cared and loved me so deeply. Friends, He is so good.

In retrospect, my first year of college has been one of the best years of my life. In addition to all of those really-cool-life-changing-things I have learned, I have learned: how to apply to a community college, how to make a somewhat decent breakfast using only a microwave, how to dance in public, how to go to a concert (I am really experienced in this field now,) how to adventure in the city, how to eat donut after donut after donut, how to talk about Ryan Gosling without sounding completely crazy (just kidding – I am completely crazy,) how to study for hours upon hours, how to find really cool coffee shops, and how to eat an insane amount of food (aka eating a pizookie at BJ’s with only three people).

I think I am actually learning how to become an adult. (But don’t worry, for now I am still a teen).

xx, Hannah

P.S. I typed all of this up in a really hip coffee shop and am feeling extremely hip right now.